Why is the U.S. unsure of how much coronavirus vaccine they have?
The United States’ situation with the coronavirus vaccine is looking pretty grim at the moment. Officials are saying they don’t know exactly how much of the vaccine is available, nor if there is capacity to get President Biden’s plan for 100 million inoculations in 100 days off the ground.
White House briefing
White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Monday admitted that the Biden administration doesn’t know how many reserve COVID-19 vaccinations the U.S. has. “We’ve been here for five days to evaluate the supply so that we can release the maximum amount while also ensuring that everyone can get the second dose on the FDA-recommended schedule,” Psaki said about President Biden’s top priority.
“So the confusion around this issue, which we acknowledge there is some confusion, speaks to a larger problem, which is what we’re inheriting from the prior administration, which is much worse than we could have imagined,” Psaki stated.
On Sunday, the director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had already warned that the federal government does not know how much coronavirus vaccine the nation has, a complication that adds to the already herculean task before the Biden administration.
“I can’t tell you how much vaccine we have, and if I can’t tell it to you then I can’t tell it to the governors and I can’t tell it to the state health officials,” CDC director Dr. Rochelle Walensky told Fox News Sunday.
“If they don’t know how much vaccine they’re getting not just this week but next week and the week after they can’t plan. They can’t figure out how many sites to roll out, they can’t figure out how many vaccinators that they need, and they can’t figure out how many appointments to make for the public,” Walensky said.
White House chief medical advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci, who served in the Trump administration, said Sunday the Biden target of 100 million doses in 100 days is not a final number. “It is really a floor and not a ceiling,” He told CBS’ Face The Nation. “It is going to be a challenge. I think it was a reasonable goal that was set. We always want to do better than the goal that you’ve set.”
Those 100 million injections will cover about 67 million people, Fauci said, some of whom will have received the required two doses while others will have received only one dose. So far, the U.S. has administered nearly 22 million doses, far below federal targets.
The need to vaccinate as many people as possible has taken on new urgency as the coronavirus mutates. Fauci said the COVID-19 vaccines currently on the market may not be as effective against new strains.
Vicious virus variants
Biden’s surgeon general pick stressed on January 24 that the U.S. is in a race to adapt against the new variants. “The virus is basically telling us that it’s going to continue to change and we’ve got to be ready for it,” Dr. Vivek Murthy said in an interview with ABC News’ This Week. “So the bottom line is, we’re in a race against these variants, the virus is going to change and it’s up to us to adapt and to make sure that we’re staying ahead.”
The Biden administration has set the target of distributing 100 million shots in its first 100 days in office, or 1 million shots per day. But that target was reached by former President Donald Trump in his final days in office, according to a Bloomberg News tracker that shows that 1.3 million shots were given on January 11 and 1.1 million on both January 14 and 16.
At that rate, it will take three years to inoculate the entire U.S. population against the virus that has so far killed 419,000 Americans.